I don’t believe I’ve ever fantasized about mussels like I have George’s. They’ve been on my mind and in my dreams, succulent and meaty and begging to be eaten, for weeks. Of course we’re talking mussels here, not muscles, of which George’s Brasserie offers five different varieties. The fiery style, with a delicate spicy cream sauce, was so good, I’m not sure I’ll ever find the courage to order any of the others. It was love at first dunk of their fresh French bread into that spicy sauce. This overwhelming delight was a somewhat unexpected reaction, given that French food has never really excited me (a distaste I blame on a few bad experiences I had on a trip to Paris back in college, and an overall dislike of game and heavy sauces). In contrast, Executive Chef Andrew “Drew” Dodd puts a contemporary spin on the cuisine, while still offering many signature French dishes, including bouillabaisse, cassoulet, beef bourguignon, and charcuterie. A handful of the entrees are sourced locally, including the North Carolina trout armandine, the Spring Mountain Farms chicken served with black garlic beurre blanc, and a few varieties of their large oyster selection.
Like the food, the restaurant itself is upscale yet inviting. There are cozy round booths bordering smaller bistro style tables complete with Parisian-style rattan chairs. Small touches, like the aluminum bread pails brought to each table, keep the restaurant grounded and the atmosphere friendly.
One of my favorite hors d’oeuvres is the 48-hour pork belly, which is cooked sous-vide and served with jalapeno infused water melon. Unlike other pork belly I’ve tried, George’s has a crispy skin and no jiggly bits; you can literally sink your teeth into it. Other standout dishes are the supple pan-seared scallops, served with sweet corn and saffron puree, fava beans, smoked tomato, and thyme beurre blanc and the NY Strip Au Poivre with brandy peppercorn sauce, served with a petite ceramic pot of truffle pommes frites. I’ve also heard great things about the goat cheese and caramelized onion tart, but I’ve yet to try it (next time!).
George’s is a place where Francophiles and Francophobes alike will be satisfied, not only with the exceptional food but also the extensive wine list and the attentive and impressively knowledgeable servers. And for those fiery mussels, of course.
Located in the StoneCrest at Piper Glen plaza, TRUE Crafted Pizza was opened with the goal of making the best pizza in Charlotte, and I’d say they’re a strong contender. It’s a fast casual restaurant, where you order at the register and food is brought to table. Despite the format, TRUE keeps it classy with its large marble bar adorned with pendant lighting and hanging wine glasses, all of which is anchored by a large rectangular Wood Stone pizza oven. With temperatures ranging from 625-635 degrees Fahrenheit, TRUE cooks their pies in as little as 3.5 minutes!
At TRUE, you can get your standard pepperoni pie if you like, but what really makes TRUE worth the trip are the specialty pizzas. Two of my favorites are the broccoli rabe and sausage, served with a bit of red pepper flakes for heat, and the garlic and clam pizza with pancetta, a delightfully salty concoction that was inspired by the legendary Pepe’s in New Haven. Next on my to-try list are the bacon and egg pizza topped with roasted potatoes and the hot oil with spicy peppers.
For me, pizza is all about the crust, and TRUE’s crust (which was developed with the assistance of Harry Peemoeller of Johnson & Wales) is both crisp and chewy, a complicated balance achieved by the high water content in the dough. The same dough is used for the grilled pizzas, which have a thinner, albeit sill chewy, crust. For a fantastic combination of sweet and salty, soft and crunchy, try the Prosciutto di Parma arugula, fig preserves, and balsamic drizzle.
In addition to the pizzas, TRUE also offers a handful of appetizers, salads, and sandwiches, plus gelato (though, it’s not currently made in-house). All the drafts are local Charlotte beers, including Mecklenburg, Triple C, Birdsong, and NODA. And for my GF friends, the TRUE team is working on developing a gluten-free option that meets their high taste standards, so stay tuned!
To be completely honest, I was a little scared to eat at Chima. I’d never been to a Brazilian Steakhouse before, and I expected eating at one to involve massive amounts of meat consumption followed by a clinical case of the meat sweats. Don’t get me wrong, I do like meat, just not excessive amounts, especially not in one sitting. All of this fret could have been avoided had I known about the special two-sided token. Each patron gets one of these powerful chips, which are used to signal the servers when you are ready for more meat (and when you’re not). It was kind of like a game–once the chip was turned over, men and meat would come at us from all directions, and our job was to manage it.
Chima’s prix fixe Rodizio dinner includes sixteen types of meat, each of which is rotisserie-cooked onsite. Servers emerge from the kitchen, holding skewered meats vertically atop small cutting boards, and glide between tables politely asking if you’d like to try their specific variety of meat, no pressure to be had. Each skewer has meats of multiple temperatures (rare to well done), and the servers use large knifes to swiftly slice the meat, while patrons use small tongs to grab the tip and transfer the meat to their plate. There’s something carnal about the whole experience. Of course, each of my attempts to grab the meat with the little tongs was awkward and reeked of inexperience, which gave us lots of good laughs at the table. To my delight, you can take as little or as much meat as you like. Just a bite if you want, which makes it easier to try a little of each of the meats available.
So what were my favorite meats? The “Picanha” top sirloin, filet mignon, parmesan crusted pork loin, and the sausage (for its snappy skin).
Of course, the focus at Chima is on the meat, but they also offer an enormous salad bar, which is included in the dinner’s cost (though desserts are not). The salad bar has everything from fresh mozzarella to marinated artichokes, beef carpaccio to smoked salmon. Chima has a happy hour every day from 5-7pm in their upstairs bar where you can sample small portions of most of the meats while sipping on a a delicious caipirinha. It’s a great deal!